Adult learner Amy Mitchell takes advantage of Partnership Teach program

Amy Mitchell can see her finish line at ECU. As part of the Partnership Teach program through the College of Education, Mitchell is in the fourth year of a five-year journey toward a degree in elementary education.

“It’s been long,” she said. “I knew that it was going to take five years, but I am at the end of the road. It seems like this last year is taking longer, but it’s been a great experience.”

Amy Mitchell, a mother of two, works as a teacher assistant in Johnston County and is attending ECU online through the Partnership Teach program to become an elementary school teacher. (Contributed photo)

The married mother of a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son works full time as a teacher assistant at Princeton Elementary School in the Johnston County school system.

“ECU is smart,” Mitchell said. “They’ve got this set up to where people like me are only taking two or three classes per semester, so it takes longer, but honestly, I couldn’t do more than that, not working full time anyway, so they’re right in doing it the way they’ve done it.”

Partnership Teach began at ECU in 2002 as a way to increase the number of high-quality teachers in local communities. Students take courses at partnering community colleges before transferring to ECU to complete their teaching degrees online.

With a full-time job, Mitchell said the program works for her and her family, especially compared to the program she began at a private college that involved a four-hour night class one day a week.

“I found myself sitting in a classroom for four hours once a week, and it was torture,” Mitchell said. “It was impossible for me and my family at that time for me to leave for four hours one night a week.”

She quit the program but didn’t quit on her dream to become a fully licensed teacher.

“I picked myself back up, I got myself back together, and I heard about this program at ECU,” she said.

After hearing good things about ECU from her co-workers, she jumped in, with plenty of support from her husband, David, and two children.

“It’s been a sacrifice, but when my daughter cheered and my son played football, I don’t miss that because they come first,” Mitchell said. “I have made some sacrifices. They see me on the couch with my laptop, and they just know. They’ve grown up with me in college. I do probably a couple of hours of homework every night, and on Saturdays, particularly in the winter when it’s cold outside, I will just be in the books.”

She said ECU made the road toward a teaching degree simple, from handling licensure requirements to class registration.

“When I started at ECU, they had a map,” Mitchell said. “It was a planner, and my life was planned out for the next three years, so I don’t miss a beat. There is comfort in that.”

Mitchell has done her part too. She said she doesn’t procrastinate, pointing out that getting assignments completed on time keeps from having the work overwhelm her. She said her instructors appreciate those efforts and are quick to respond to questions.

“The instructors play a huge part because they seem to understand that we have a family and we are working full time,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll email me back at night or on the weekends. I do what is expected of me, but I lean on my instructors heavily. … They are ready to support me.”

As a teacher assistant, Mitchell has worked in a variety of roles at Princeton Elementary and recently received the school’s Leading with the Heart Award from Johnston County Public Schools. She’s been the school’s bookkeeper and staffed the front office. She’s spent time working in the library. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked as a music teacher and taught third grade virtually. She’s now teaching fifth grade. All those experiences reinforced her decision to become a teacher.

“I just want to teach,” she said. “I want to keep it simple and be with the children.”

And ECU is helping her reach that goal.

“My experience with ECU has been absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “I have no regrets whatsoever.”